Non JR Regional Passes
Navigating Japan’s extensive rail network can be intimidating for first-time visitors and seasoned travelers alike. But fear not! This guide is here to help you understand and make the most of the regional rail passes in Japan.
What are Regional Rail Passes in Japan?
Regional rail passes in Japan are a cost-effective solution for traveling within specific regions of the country. These passes offer unlimited rides on Japan Rail (JR) trains within a certain area and are usually cheaper than the nationwide JR Pass.
Understanding the JR Network
The JR network is regionalized and consists of JR East, JR West, JR Central, JR Shikoku, JR Kyūshū, and JR Hokkaidō. Each of these entities issues regional rail passes for their respective areas.
|Pass Region||Pass Types||Regions Covered||Duration of Use||Price||Additional Information|
|Whole Japan||7, 14 and 21 days Japan Rail Pass for Whole Japan||All JR Routes Nationwide||7, 14, or 21 days||¥29,650||Unlimited Train Travel|
|JR East||JR East Pass (Tohoku area)||Tokyo, Tohoku Region, parts of Kanto and Chubu Regions||5 Days||¥20,000||Consecutive 5 Day Pass|
|JR East||JR East Pass (Nagano, Niigata area)||Tokyo, Nagano, Niigata, parts of Kanto and Chubu Regions||5 Days||¥18,000||Flexible 5 Day Pass|
||1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 7 days||
||Unlimited train travel|
|Region 2||Type A||Coverage 1||1 Year||$100||Info 1|
|Region 3||Type A||Coverage 1||1 Year||$100||Info 1|
|Region 4||Type A||Coverage 1||1 Year||$100||Info 1|
|Region 5||Type A||Coverage 1||1 Year||$100||Info 1|
The Perks of JR Regional Rail Passes
JR regional rail passes provide unlimited rides on all JR trains within a specific region. Some passes cover particular routes rather than regions, such as the Hokuriku Arch Pass. The Hokuriku Arch Pass offers a cheaper alternative to get from Tokyo to Kyoto with a stopover at Kanazawa.
The scope of these passes varies widely. They may cover travel in a larger metropolitan region like Kantō or Kansai, or entire islands like Hokkaidō, Shikoku, and Kyūshū. Almost all passes cover Shinkansen travel if there is a Shinkansen route in the region.
The Limitations of Regional Rail Passes
There are a few regional rail passes that do not cover travel on the Tokaidō Shinkansen, the Shinkansen that travels between Tokyo and Kyoto. If you’re planning this journey, your only option would be the All Japan Rail Pass.
Additional Benefits of Regional Rail Passes
Some regional rail passes include additional benefits such as free rental cycles, discount coupons for local attractions, or even coverage for ferries, buses, and municipal trams.
Eligibility for JR Regional Rail Passes
Most of the JR regional rail passes can only be used by travelers entering Japan on a foreign passport with a “temporary visitor” visa. However, there are a few passes available to foreign residents of Japan.
Where Can You Buy a Regional Rail Pass?
All regional rail passes can be purchased online or from overseas travel agents. Some passes are cheaper when bought overseas, which can be done online.
Activating Your Regional Rail Pass
When purchasing a pass or exchanging a voucher for a pass, you’ll be asked when you would like to activate the pass. It can be activated on the same day, or at a later date.
Traveling with a Regional Rail Pass
Most regional rail passes are similar to the Japan Rail Pass — roughly passport-sized and made of card paper. These don’t work in the automatic ticket gates, so you’ll have to use a gate where staff are present.
Exploring Specific Regional Rail Passes
Let’s delve into some specific regional rail passes in Japan to better understand their benefits and coverage.
Tokyo Wide Pass: Unlocking the Beauty Beyond Tokyo
If you’re planning to base yourself in Tokyo and embark on day trips or overnight adventures to nearby prefectures, the Tokyo Wide Pass is your perfect companion. Unlike most other JR passes, the Tokyo Wide Pass is available to all foreign passport holders, including foreign residents. This pass covers travel from Tokyo to popular excursions such as Nikkō, Izu, Fuji Five Lakes, Karuizawa, and ski resort Gala Yuzawa. Additionally, it includes travel to and from Narita and Haneda airports, making it a convenient choice for international travelers.
Key Details of the Tokyo Wide Pass:
- Regions Covered: Kantō region
- Shinkansen Access: Hokuriku Shinkansen to Sakudaira; Jōetsu Shinkansen to Gala Yuzawa; Tōhoku Shinkansen to Nasu Shiobara
- Eligibility: Foreign passport holders
JR East Passes:
The JR East passes cover rail and bus travel in the central, eastern, and northeastern parts of Japan. These passes offer a range of options for foreign passport holders, allowing them to explore regions such as Kantō, Nagano, Niigata, Tōhoku, and parts of Hokkaidō. Let’s take a closer look at some of the available JR East passes:
Nagano & Niigata Area Pass: A Gateway to the Snowy Wonderland
Ideal for winter enthusiasts and nature lovers, the Nagano & Niigata Area Pass provides access to the picturesque snow-capped mountains of Nagano and Niigata. With this pass, you can travel on the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Jōetsu Myōkō and Niigata, as well as the Tōhoku Shinkansen to Nasu Shiobara. This pass is eligible for foreign passport holders.
Tōhoku Area Pass: Unveiling the Charms of Tōhoku and Kantō
The Tōhoku Area Pass covers the scenic beauty of Tōhoku along with the vibrant region of Kantō. With this pass, you can travel on the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Sakudaira, Jōetsu Shinkansen to Gala Yuzawa, and Tōhoku Shinkansen to Shin-Aomori (Aomori). Foreign passport holders can take advantage of this pass to explore the wonders of Tōhoku and Kantō.
East–South Hokkaidō Pass: Venturing into the Wild Beauty of Hokkaidō
For those seeking to immerse themselves in the breathtaking landscapes of Hokkaidō, the East–South Hokkaidō Pass is the perfect choice. This pass allows foreign passport holders with a temporary (tourist) visa to travel on the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Sakudaira, Jōetsu Shinkansen to Gala Yuzawa, Tōhoku Shinkansen to Shin-Aomori (Aomori), and Hokkaido Shinkansen to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto (Hakodate). Experience the wonders of Hokkaidō with this comprehensive pass.
Tōhoku–South Hokkaidō Pass: Discovering the Best of Tōhoku and Hokkaidō
The Tōhoku–South Hokkaidō Pass offers a unique opportunity to explore both Tōhoku and Hokkaidō. This pass allows travelers to journey on the Tōhoku Shinkansen between Shin-Aomori (Aomori) and Hokkaidō Shinkansen to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto (Hakodate). Foreign passport holders with a temporary (tourist) visa can make the most of this pass and discover the stunning landscapes of Tōhoku and Hokkaidō.
JR Central Passes: Delving into the Heart of Japan
JR Central’s “tourist passes” provide access to destinations in the region between Kantō and Kansai. Unlike other regional passes, these passes cover travel along specific rail lines, offering a unique way to explore the area. Let’s take a closer look at the JR Central tourist passes:
Takayama–Hokuriku Area Pass: Embracing the Alpine Beauty
The Takayama–Hokuriku Area Pass allows you to immerse yourself in the stunning alpine scenery of Takayama, Matsumoto, and the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. This pass covers five consecutive days of travel and offers unlimited access to the Hokuriku Shinkansen, allowing you to journey between Kanazawa and Jōetsu Myōkō. Take in the awe-inspiring beauty of the Japanese Alps with this pass.
Alpine–Takayama–Matsumoto Area Pass: A Journey Through Scenic Japan
Embark on a journey through the Kiso Valley, Matsumoto, and Takayama with the Alpine–Takayama–Matsumoto Area Pass. This pass covers five consecutive days of travel and provides access to the Hokuriku Shinkansen, allowing you to explore the wonders of the region. Experience the charm of traditional Japanese villages, majestic castles, and breathtaking landscapes with this pass.
Ise–Kumano–Wakayama Area Pass: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Pilgrim Trails
The Ise–Kumano–Wakayama Area Pass takes you on a spiritual journey through the sacred Kumano Kodō pilgrim trails and the serene beauty of Ise and Wakayama. With this pass, you can explore the hidden gems of Japan’s spiritual heritage. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of ancient shrines, lush forests, and peaceful coastal landscapes with this pass.
Mt. Fuji–Shizuoka Area Pass: Conquering the Iconic Mount Fuji
The Mt. Fuji–Shizuoka Area Pass offers the opportunity to conquer the iconic Mount Fuji and explore the picturesque Izu Peninsula. This pass allows you to travel to and from Tokyo, providing access to the majestic beauty of Mount Fuji and the serene coastal landscapes of the Izu Peninsula. Embark on an unforgettable adventure with this pass.
Kansai Area Pass & Kansai WIDE Area Passes:
The Kansai Area Pass and the Kansai WIDE Area Pass are specifically designed for travel within the Kansai region, which includes popular destinations such as Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Kōbe, and Himeji. These passes also cover travel to and from Kansai International Airport, making them convenient options for international visitors. Let’s explore these passes in more detail:
Kansai Area Pass: Unlocking the Treasures of Kansai
The Kansai Area Pass allows you to explore the cultural treasures of Kansai, including Kyoto’s ancient temples, Osaka’s vibrant cityscape, and Nara’s tranquil deer park. With this pass, you can choose the number of days you want to use it, ranging from one to four days. Experience the rich history, delicious cuisine, and warm hospitality of Kansai with this flexible pass.
Kansai WIDE Area Pass: Beyond Kansai’s Borders
The Kansai WIDE Area Pass offers extended coverage beyond the Kansai region, allowing you to venture to Kinosaki Onsen, a famous hot spring town, and the scenic Kii Peninsula. This pass also enables travel over the Great Seto Bridge to Takamatsu, located on the island of Shikoku. Immerse yourself in the natural beauty, cultural heritage, and culinary delights of Kansai and its neighboring regions with this pass.
JR West Rail Passes:
JR West covers the western half of Honshū, offering a range of regional passes for travelers exploring this part of Japan. Whether you’re arriving at Kansai International Airport or focusing your travels on western Honshū, these passes provide convenient and cost-effective options. Let’s delve into the JR West regional rail passes:
JR West All Area Pass: Unlocking the Treasures of Western Honshū
The JR West All Area Pass offers unlimited travel on the Sanyō Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Hakata, Hokuriku Shinkansen between Kanazawa and Jōetsu Myōkō, and covers the rest of Kansai and western Honshū. This pass is perfect for those seeking to explore the vibrant cities, historical sites, and natural wonders of the region. Foreign passport holders with a temporary visitor status can take advantage of this comprehensive pass.
Kansai–Hiroshima Area Pass:
The Kansai–Hiroshima Area Pass allows travelers to journey from Kansai to Hiroshima and explore the vibrant cities and historical landmarks along the way. With this pass, you can travel on the Sanyō Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Hiroshima. Discover the rich history, culinary delights, and natural beauty of Kansai and Hiroshima with this pass.
Kansai–Hokuriku Area Pass:
The Kansai–Hokuriku Area Pass provides access to both Kanazawa and Kansai, allowing you to explore the cultural heritage and scenic wonders of these regions. With this pass, you can travel on the Sanyō Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Okayama, as well as the Hokuriku Shinkansen between Kanazawa and Jōetsu Myōkō. Immerse yourself in the beauty of Kansai and Hokuriku with this pass.
Sanyō–San’in Area Pass:
The Sanyō–San’in Area Pass covers the western region of Honshū, from Kansai to Fukuoka, providing access to vibrant cities and stunning landscapes. With this pass, you can travel on the Sanyō Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Hakata. Explore the historical sites, natural wonders, and delicious cuisine of western Honshū with this pass.
Additional Information: Most JR West passes cover travel on the Sanyō Shinkansen, which runs between Shin-Osaka and Hakata. Some passes also provide access to parts of Hokuriku, including Kanazawa and the Noto Peninsula.
Hokuriku Arch Pass:
The Hokuriku Arch Pass, jointly offered by JR East and JR West, is a unique pass that connects Tokyo and Kansai. This pass covers travel on the Hokuriku Shinkansen between Tokyo and Kanazawa, and the limited express train that connects Kanazawa and Osaka via Kyoto. While it doesn’t include the fastest route, the Tokaidō Shinkansen, it offers a scenic and fascinating itinerary. Let’s explore the Hokuriku Arch Pass in more detail:
Key Details of the Hokuriku Arch Pass:
- Regions Covered: Kantō, Nagano, Hokuriku, Kansai
- Shinkansen Access: Hokuriku Shinkansen between Tokyo and Kanazawa
- Validity Period: 7 consecutive days
- Price (purchased within Japan): A$263.49
- Price (purchased outside Japan): A$253.16
Additional Information: It is advisable to purchase the Hokuriku Arch Pass overseas for a better deal. However, it can also be purchased in Japan at major JR East and JR West train stations within the pass’s coverage.
JR Shikoku Passes: Exploring the Serene Island of Shikoku
JR Shikoku offers two passes that allow travelers to explore the tranquil island of Shikoku: The All Shikoku Rail Pass and the Kagawa Mini Rail and Ferry Pass. These passes provide access to the region’s scenic beauty, spiritual sites, and cultural heritage. Let’s take a closer look at these passes:
All Shikoku Rail Pass:
The All Shikoku Rail Pass offers unlimited rail travel around the island of Shikoku for three to seven consecutive days. This pass is available to foreign passport holders with a temporary visitor status and allows them to explore the natural wonders, ancient temples, and vibrant cities of Shikoku. Experience the serene beauty and rich heritage of this hidden gem of Japan with this pass.
Kagawa Mini Rail and Ferry Pass:
The Kagawa Mini Rail and Ferry Pass is a regional pass specifically designed for Kagawa, one of Shikoku’s four prefectures. This pass allows travelers to explore the scenic beauty, cultural sites, and culinary delights of Kagawa. Whether you’re visiting the iconic Seto Inland Sea, the historic city of Takamatsu, or the picturesque Shodōshima Island, this pass is your gateway to the charms of Kagawa.
Additional Information: The All Shikoku Rail Pass covers rail travel and does not include reserved seats.
Setouchi Area Pass:
The Setouchi Area Pass, offered jointly by JR West and JR Shikoku, is a comprehensive pass that allows travelers to explore both the Kansai and Shikoku regions. This pass covers travel between major cities such as Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Takamatsu, as well as the scenic Seto Inland Sea. Let’s explore the Setouchi Area Pass in more detail:
Key Details of the Setouchi Area Pass:
- Regions Covered: Kansai, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Kagawa, Ehime, Fukuoka
- Shinkansen Access: Sanyō Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Okayama
- Validity Period: 7 consecutive days
- Price: A$227.33 (Reserve online)
Additional Information: As of October 1, 2023, station sales of the Setouchi Area Pass have ended. To purchase one, you must book online.
JR Kyūshū Passes: Exploring the Enchanting Island of Kyūshū
JR Kyūshū offers the All Kyūshū Pass, allowing travelers to explore the enchanting island of Kyūshū. This pass provides unlimited rail travel on Kyūshū, including the Kyūshū Shinkansen, which runs between Hakata (Fukuoka) and Kagoshima-chūō (Kagoshima). Let’s delve into the details of the All Kyūshū Pass:
Key Details of the All Kyūshū Pass:
- Validity Period: 3 consecutive days, 5 consecutive days, 7 consecutive days
- Price (purchased within Japan): A$206.66, A$232.49, A$258.33
- Price (purchased outside Japan): A$196.33, A$220.86, A$245.16
- Booking Link: Reserve online
Additional Information: The All Kyūshū Pass covers reserved seats on Shinkansen and limited express trains. It is available only to foreign travelers entering Japan on a tourist visa.
Sanyō–San’in Northern Kyūshū Pass:
The Sanyō–San’in Northern Kyūshū Pass is a joint pass offered by JR West and JR Kyūshū. This pass covers the same areas as the Sanyō–San’in Area Pass and the Northern Kyūshū Pass, allowing travelers to explore both western Honshū and Kyūshū. With this pass, you can experience the vibrant cities, historical sites, and natural wonders of both regions.
Additional Information: The Sanyō–San’in Northern Kyūshū Pass can be purchased in Japan at major JR West and JR Kyūshū train stations within the pass’s coverage, or online from an overseas agent.
JR Hokkaidō Passes:
JR Hokkaidō offers a range of passes for travelers looking to explore Japan’s northernmost island. These passes provide access to Hokkaidō’s major cities, tourist destinations, and New Chitose Airport. Let’s explore the JR Hokkaidō passes:
JR Hokkaidō All Hokkaidō Pass:
The JR Hokkaidō All Hokkaidō Pass covers unlimited rail travel on Hokkaidō, allowing travelers to explore the island’s natural beauty, vibrant cities, and cultural sites. This pass does not include the Hokkaidō Shinkansen but provides access to Hokkaidō’s extensive rail network. With the flexibility of five, seven, or ten consecutive days of travel, you can embark on an unforgettable Arctic adventure.
JR Hokkaidō Hokkaidō Free Pass:
The JR Hokkaidō Hokkaidō Free Pass is available to all travelers, regardless of passport or visa status. This pass offers unlimited travel on Hokkaidō’s rail network, allowing you to explore the island’s diverse landscapes and attractions. While not as cost-effective as the All Hokkaidō Pass, this option provides greater flexibility for travelers.
Sapporo–Noboribetsu Area Pass:
The Sapporo–Noboribetsu Area Pass is specifically designed for travelers interested in exploring the northern highlights of Hokkaidō, including the vibrant city of Sapporo and the famous hot springs of Noboribetsu. This pass allows unlimited travel within the designated area, providing access to breathtaking natural landscapes and cultural experiences.
Sapporo–Furano Area Pass:
The Sapporo–Furano Area Pass is perfect for those seeking to experience Hokkaidō’s stunning natural beauty. This pass covers travel between Sapporo and Furano, allowing you to explore the picturesque landscapes, lavender fields, and ski resorts of the Furano area. Immerse yourself in Hokkaidō’s outdoor adventures with this pass.
Additional Information: For more details on JR Hokkaidō passes and itineraries, refer to our comprehensive guide to JR Hokkaidō rail passes.